Bringing generations together isn't just a lovely thing to do, it's an exciting thing to do in order to reconnect our communities and tackle the challenges we all face. Our connections need to be celebrated for the impact they have on our lives, how they keep us going and how we can all support each other through intergenerational solidarity.
It would be easy to assume that intergenerational connections are only beneficial for the older people, for whom tasks can be completed by the younger generation. But nothing could be further from the truth. In her Legacy Project, Benefits of Intergenerational Connections - www.legacyproject.org Canadian Susan V Bose outlines the many ways in which intergenerational solidarity has a positive impact. These include:
· Children have a better sense of who they are and where they've come from
· The involvement of a reliable, caring adult helps children develop life skills, and builds self-esteem and confidence. One study showed that when a child is mentored by an adult, they are: 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs; 27% less likely to begin using alcohol; 52% less likely to skip school
· Having intergenerational relationships help children look beyond ageist stereotypes
· Active, involved older adults with close intergenerational connections consistently report much less depression, better physical health, and higher degrees of life satisfaction
· Young and old can teach each other new things – young people were born with technology and can show the older generation how to use it. Many of us have sought the technical knowledge of a child or grandchild!
In the UK, the question of how intergenerational relationships can be developed was discussed during a Housing Lin HAPPIHour session, where Roland Karthaus from Matter Architecture noted that these relationships cannot be forced. He felt intergenerational living has to be firmly embedded in its neighbourhood via some kind of social space, and highlighted Matter Architecture has been working on a project in a high street in Walthomstow, East London which has this feature.
Age UK Portsmouth has been working to reconnect communities for some years. It hosts Boogie Mites, intergenerational music and movement classes that help both the older people who attend the Centre and their very young visitors. Positive comments from Age UK Portsmouth were that “the interaction with the music really helps to stimulate the children,” whilst, "we also do exercises in the chairs for [older] people, and they have a thoroughly good time all joining in together".
Intergenerational connections can also be created at a more personal and long-term level. The UK organisation Share and Care Homeshare matches homeowners with sharers. It explains that, “While there are many options for people needing personal care, few help to alleviate loneliness and give the on-going companionship that sharing a home can give. Homeshare is an affordable solution offering practical help and support which can typically be very expensive if sought through separate channels.” One successful homeshare matched by the organisation is 34-year-old author Ben, and 84-year-old homeowner Winnie. Their story has been featured in UK media and inspired the book ‘The Marmalade Diaries’. As the journalist says of the book, “Underneath it all is the wonderful story of two people born half a century apart, learning lessons from each other” – a wonderful way to describe the undoubted benefits of intergenerational connections.
For more examples of innovative programmes, events and articles of interest from around the world, please follow us on:
Facebook, @StandardsWiseIntl and